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Cinemas remain in ‘survival’ mode

Regent 3 Cinemas Masterton owner Brent Goodwin. PHOTO/FILE

ALEYNA MARTINEZ
[email protected]

Wairarapa cinemas remain in “survival” mode with a dearth of major international movie releases from the US, Europe, and China affecting regular business.

The past two months at Alert Level 1 had offered most businesses in the hospitality industry a chance to recoup losses.

For cinemas, even with their doors open, there was still a lack of premium product to sell because major movie titles were in short supply.

“There’s very little being released in terms of the big titles, there are smaller titles coming through like little New Zealand films and stuff like that – but it’s not really what the industry lives on,” Regent 3 Cinemas Masterton owner Brent Goodwin said.

Usually, “the industry just churns it out, we feed it through”, he said.

Regent Cinema’s most popular title since lockdown had been Trolls, which began screening last month and was still available Saturday and Sunday, twice a day.

Goodwin said, it “was the biggest title by a long way” and had done good business during the school holidays.

He was anticipating good sales from the next major adult film, Tenet, featuring Robert Pattinson from Twilight, screening from August 27.

“It’s the first big release since the virus hit in March.”

Another lockdown “wouldn’t kill anyone” but, Goodwin wasn’t sure if his business would survive another Level 3 or 4.

Ticket sales had also been affected by video on demand services and some people still feeling wary about being in public spaces.

“Really, until America especially sorts itself out, I don’t believe our film supplier will come right,” Goodwin said.

Eve Buchanan, owner of The Screening Room in Masterton said another factor to the lockdown of film releases from overseas was film piracy.

“If they’ve got a multi-million or hundred million dollar film, they’re not going to release it in New Zealand for somebody to sit there with their mobile phone, record the whole thing and then release it on YouTube that night,” Buchanan said.

“Every single hospitality business needs a hand. I feel as though my regulars and locals have been extraordinarily supportive.”

Jane Ross, the spokeswoman for Sunset Cinema in Carterton said they had to cancel their programme for members until 2021 for health and safety reasons.

“Most of our members are in the most vulnerable age group category.

“With uncertainty around the different levels, we couldn’t guarantee that we would be able to do our screenings for the year.

“Obviously with what’s happened in the past week, we feel confident that we did make the right decision.”

As a response to how covid-19 had affected the Wairarapa film culture, Ross began her own online film festival.

Tim Martin, owner of Circus in Martinborough said covid-19 had been a game-changer for the cinema industry because their exclusivity rights for screening movies before TV and streaming services had dropped from 90 days to 17 in the United States “and that is unlikely to reverse after covid”, he said.

He urged people who wanted to keep the cinema experience in Martinborough to “use it or lose it”.

Martin said the Circus restaurant had been busier than it was a year ago, so loss of movie ticket sales could not be because of public wariness with social distancing.

“It’s been a good business and we are definitely down and I fear that if the States is still a year away from releasing any big blockbuster titles then we’re going to have to repurpose in the meantime – there’s no point in hosting a viewing when you’re going to get a third of the audience than you did a year ago. That’s the reality.”

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